From the lawns of Rancho Olompali near Novato to the Cushing Memorial Amphitheatre situated among the peaks of Mount Tamalpais, Marin County has seen it all when it comes to rock & roll.
For more than 50 years, Marin has been the home of iconic rock artists and bands, as well as the scene of legendary concerts. Now, locals can revisit those moments as MarinMOCA opens a new exhibit, “Marin’s Rock Art Scene,” on Saturday, Sept. 12.
“One of our board members had a memory of Olompali; how important it was to the start of the whole rock culture in the Bay Area and how early it was, in 1966 before the Summer of Love in San Francisco,” says MarinMOCA Executive Director Nancy Rehkopf.
Starting there in 1966, “Marin’s Rock Art Scene” looks back on several musical figures who made Marin famous, and features photography of the Grateful Dead, Carlos Santana and others, taken by prolific rock photographers including Herb Greene and Jay Blakesberg; both of whom worked with MarinMOCA on this exhibit.
“We curated the show primarily through word of mouth,” Rehkopf says. “We learned that rock culture is still very much alive in Marin and the Bay Area.”
Along with photographers, MarinMOCA worked with musicians, producers and even collectors of memorabilia for the exhibit, which also includes vintage posters for fondly-remembered concerts such as Marin’s 1966 outdoor rock concert at Mt. Tam and the infamous “Skeleton and Rose” poster for Grateful Dead’s 1966 show at Avalon Ballroom drawn by beloved artists Stanley Mouse and Alton Kelly.
Musicians also get into the act for this exhibit, and “Marin’s Rock Art Scene” displays original artwork by artists like Dave Getz of Big Brother & the Holding Company and Joan Baez, whose oil paintings included in the exhibit include a portrait of her younger sister, Mimi Fariña.
Fariña was best known for founding and running nonprofit organization Bread & Roses, which offers free live music to isolated residents of homeless shelters, correction facilities, health care centers and convalescent homes in the Bay Area and beyond. For this exhibit, 20 percent of all art sales will be donated to Bread & Roses.
Alongside the art and images, MarinMOCA will also show the documentary, Olompali: A Hippie Odyssey, as part of the exhibit. Narrated by Peter Coyote, it tells the story of the Marin estate that became a commune and kicked off the rock scene by attracting figures like Joplin and the Grateful Dead in the ’60s.
The exhibit also follows the local scene’s trajectory beyond the ’60s and ’70s with photos and album art representing heavy-metal superstars Metallica, Platinum-selling punk band Green Day, and even ’90s hip-hop icon Tupac Shakur—who attended Tamalpais High School.
Shakur is honored in Ashleigh Sumner’s 2018 mixed media painting, “I See No Change.” The piece features the rapper posed among stenciled red roses, layers of newsprint and images of cloaked Ku Klux Klan members and uniformed police officers. The words “No one taking the Blame” repeats across the canvas, resonating with the ongoing movements against police brutality and racial inequality.
“Marin’s Rock Art Scene” will be open to view in-person at MarinMOCA by appointment beginning Sept. 12. While a slideshow of the art will be available online soon, Rehkopf invites art lovers and patrons to make appointments to safely view the work in the museum.
“It’s a very comfortable experience here at the museum,” Rehkopf says. “You will be in the gallery with a maximum of 10 people, all of our doors and windows are open, everybody’s wearing masks, people are very respectful of social distancing. I’d like to encourage people to go.”
‘Marin’s Rock Art Scene’ runs Saturday, Sept. 12, to Sunday, Nov. 8. MarinMOCA is located at 500 Palm Dr., Novato. Open by appointment only. 415.506.0137; marinmoca.org.